61 marketing + growth + community building things I did and didn't do to grow my business from $0 to 7 figures...

I originally wrote this as a post on IH. I'm tempted to turn it into a refined list and short ebook, if you're interested please let me know or get on my newsletter to hear more about it and other rosie things.

I officially started Ministry of Testing as company in 2011, though it had been going as an online community since 2007. The first 9-10 years or so was mostly myself leading things, I've been stepping back for the past 2-3 years.

Here is my reflection (ie brain dump) of my efforts.

  1. I never lost focus that it was all about the community first

  2. I never lost focus that it was about improving the testing industry

  3. I always asked myself if what I was doing would be helpful

  4. I listened to the community

  5. I never did surveys

  6. I made decisions based on what I felt the community wanted

  7. I focused on things one day at a time

  8. I kept doing what worked, dropped what wasn't

  9. I experimented lots with the community, some things worked, others not so much.

  10. We co-created many things - from forum posts, to articles, to events and a testing card deck!

  11. I started a weekly newsletter before most people were doing it

  12. I kept at the newsletter even when it made me proper stressed some days

  13. I collected blogs from the community and shared them in an automated way

  14. I stole ideas from across the web/globe that I thought would be a good fit for the community

  15. I stayed mindful that some tactics work for others wouldn't work for us

  16. Always did my best to remain an ethical business

  17. I focused on doing good things that I thought were valuable

  18. Always thought marketing activities with a specific ROI sucked, too many things can't be measured.

  19. I showed up, every single day.

  20. We made it a safe place, cut out the spam and bad vibes.

  21. Never got too obsessed with analytics or data, with community, you can see when things are working, or not.

  22. I looked for win-win scenarios

  23. We grew sustainably

  24. Never spent money on ads

  25. Ignored the competition

  26. Sucked at SEO

  27. We did well on social

  28. Built a real community, on and offline

  29. Looked for opportunities to help testers grow

  30. Built a brand that testers loved

  31. Invested in keeping a community forum going even when things were quiet

  32. Sporadically posted to Quora and Reddit

  33. Created a FlipBoard which drives almost as much traffic as social networks

  34. Created a LinkedIn group in the early days which drove a lot of early members

  35. Linked Group was great as another message/email marketing tool (functionality no longer exists)

  36. Cried with the moderation I had to do with said LinkedIn group

  37. Created 30 day challenges for the community to participate in

  38. Regularly publish articles from the community

  39. Became a place where testers want to speak

  40. Always paid all our conference speakers travel expenses

  41. Allowed members to host meet ups with our brand, current count is now over 60.

  42. Always avoided being salesy, but didn't hesitate to shout about the things we were doing.

  43. Learned over time, that whilst our customers were testers, mostly it was their employers who paid the bills. This means we had a constant steady flow of sales, rather than huge spikes.

  44. Never used the company to elevate my personal brand

  45. Connected with other testers on LinkedIn

  46. Created events that I believed testers wanted and needed

  47. Recorded all talks from all our conferences, these became the later foundation of our online learning SaaS/community platform.

  48. Hacked things together in the beginning from hosted platforms and Wordpress just to get things done.

  49. Over time moved away to building our own thing.

  50. Started a testers slack group and moderate it with love. Almost 8k members.

  51. Started a separate Ministry of Testing slack group where we talk testing but also promote all the things we do. 4k members.

  52. Intercom, Mailchimp, Buffer, Discourse, Slack are our main tools for marketing.

  53. Started an online/Shopify store to sell swag.

  54. Created (via a collaboration) a TestSphere card deck - we sell it via our store and at events.

  55. TestSphere card deck is used at meetups and events across the globe.

  56. Gave away t-shirts at conferences. Testers would wear them in many other places, including competitors events :D

  57. Gave away stickers for laptops 'n' what not.

  58. Created back packs as gifts for speakers.

  59. Created a scholarship programme where testers can donate their fees to instead of taking the money. We would match fund it.

  60. Our conferences grew from guidance and support from active community members.

  61. Always remind myself that people are humans who need to be respected and cared for.